Monday, May 17, 2004

Tahniah Zaid Ibrahim!

Timbalan Pengerusi UMNO Kelantan, Zaid Ibrahim telah memberi beberapa pandangan yang agak menarik untuk dianalisis oleh para peminat-peminat politik tanahair di dalam temuramah eksklusifnya bersama akhbar internet Malaysiakini. Di bawah, disiarkan beberapa petikan temuramah beliau tersebut.


Are you saying Umno must be run by those not in the government?

Not necessarily, they can be (in both the party and the government), but there must be a proper balance. Some of them are suitable to be in the cabinet because they are technocrats and capable (for the job). But these same people may not be good politicians.

There are those who want to fight for the party and for the Malays, who alert the government if it fails to execute its policies properly. But who will undertake this responsibility if the same people (elected) in the party become ministers as well?


But aren’t party positions more important than cabinet positions?

We must accept that the best person to be prime minister does not necessarily have to be the president of Umno. That’s what I am trying to say. Why should it be the same person? Why must it be a tradition? Ghafar is the classic example..he has no higher education, he is an ordinary guy, but his loyalty and his struggle ... so he was qualified to be deputy president ... he was part of the (party) history.

And yet we changed him ... why? Because we thought somebody else would be a better deputy prime minister. So what I am saying is that in future, we elect candidates who are suitable and good enough to lead the party. It does not matter if he is not suitable for the deputy prime minister or prime minister positions.

If you look at the parliamentary system in other countries, the prime minister is not necessarily the chief of the ruling party. He is just the best person in parliament from that party... If we equate the two positions, we are limiting (the scope). People would think that the prime minister must be the president of his party so that he can consolidate his (government) position. But why must he consolidate so much power because too much power can be damaging.

So this is what I mean by checks and balance in the party structure and the cabinet structure. The constitution provides for this. The constitution doesn’t say the prime minister must be the president of Umno. It states that he/she should be a member of the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House) who has the support of the majority of MPs.

That’s why I am worried that if we do not spell out the difference, every time there is going to be contest for the prime ministership, Umno will break-up and there will be another fight. We should not break-up the party just to select the prime minister. The selection of the prime minister must be done by a different caucus, a different group of people, because that is what the law says.

Let’s say we have a caucus comprising members of the Lower House and have them elect the prime minister. Why do we have to break-up the party. Why must we involve the branches and divisions as what happened in 1987.

If you look at Australia, when Paul Keating challenged Bob Hawke, Keating won because the selection process only involved about 200 MPs. So you don’t break-up the party. Two months later, Keating went to the polls and still won because there was no break-up in the party. This is what democracy in the parliamentary system is all about. You don’t involve the entire party structure.

If we don’t address this issue, then we are going to face the (1987) problem again. How are you going to overcome the problem. Then you go around saying ‘don’t contest that post’, ‘don’t contest this post’. But that is not the solution.

The solution is to identify the right caucus to select the right person. You don’t involve the branches and divisions. The branches and divisions formulate policies for the party’s struggle, and at the supreme council level, present it to the prime minister and it is for the prime minister to decide with the members of his cabinet – what can be done or what cannot be done. And I think that is the way to ensure continuity (in the party leadership). What is happening now is that people want to contest for vice-presidency and deputy president so that they can have a shot at becoming prime minister.

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